If you had told me that in the Monday night game in Week 7 of the NFL season that one team was going to be 1-5 and last in its division and the other 4-2 and leading its division, then, yeah, I would have believed it. Just that I would have thought Baltimore was atop the AFC North with that winning record and Arizona at the bottom of the NFC West. Proves what I know at times.
There's always at least one huge pleasant surprise each NFL season and one major flop. Guess I'd have to say the Jets (4-1) are the surprise team, but clearly the Ravens, a popular AFC championship pick, are the biggest disappointments, and it might lead to the end of John Harbaugh's coaching tenure there. Harbaugh was recently asked about rumors that USC might contact him as it did a few years ago, and this was his answer: "I love the Ravens. It's not a consideration."
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Arizona is in control of the NFC West right now, but then again it was much of last season as well before collapsing at the end. The difference between then and now is the health of QB Carson Palmer, who has plenty of experience facing off against the Ravens from his Bengals days. Palmer is 9-5 against them in his career, 3-3 against Harbaugh. The Cardinals are -135 favorites for the NFC West.
Ravens at Cardinals Betting Story Lines
So what has happened to Baltimore? Grantland ran a good story about that this week, so I'll piggyback a few stats from there. The franchise has lost more than six games in an entire season only twice during the Harbaugh era. Last year's team lost six on the dot and won a playoff game in Pittsburgh and then nearly upset the Patriots in New England. First off, the Ravens could be 6-0. Every game has come down to one play/possession. The Ravens have the NFL's lowest average margin of defeat at 4.4 points per game. Their biggest loss was by six in Week 1 at Denver, and the Ravens didn't even allow Peyton Manning and Co. an offensive touchdown.
Unfortunately, the season might have gone down the tubes in that Denver loss when excellent pass-rushing linebacker Terrell Suggs was lost for the year. Baltimore is just 26th in total defense, 27th in scoring (27.0 ppg) and 27th in plus/minus takeaways at minus-5. The defense has forced a scant four turnovers. The secondary has not been good and has been killed by deep throws (16 yards or more in the air). The Ravens have faced 47 of those passes, and on those throws they have allowed quarterbacks to complete 26-for-47 for 866 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. It's not like Baltimore has faced great QBs: Manning (shell of his former self), Derek Carr, Andy Dalton (he's having a great season), Michael Vick, Josh McCown and Colin Kaepernick. Baltimore also is second-to-last in third-down defense, allowing teams to convert 47.8 percent of the time.
It looks as if the Ravens will get three injured players back this week in cornerback Lardarius Webb, defensive end Chris Canty, and wide receiver Darren Waller. All missed at least last week's loss in San Francisco. Running back Justin Forsett is dealing with an ankle injury but should play. Safety Kendrick Lewis is in question.
Potentially bad news for that Baltimore secondary: Arizona's Palmer is tied with Cincinnati's Dalton for the NFL lead with 27 completions of 20 of more yards this season. Palmer has three TD passes on those throws. He has three good weapons in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and second-year speedster John Brown. Fitzgerald is fourth in the NFL in receiving yards at 583. Brown is coming off a 10-catch, 196-yard game in Sunday's loss at Pittsburgh. He's a big play waiting to happen. Running back Chris Johnson looks better than he has since rushing for 2K with the Titans. The Cards are No. 2 in the NFL in averaging 33.8 points per game.
After dropping the first all-time meeting between the franchises, the Ravens have won the past four. They last met Oct. 30, 2011, in Baltimore, and the Ravens won 30-27. That team reached the AFC Championship Game, losing a close one in New England. The Ravens trailed that Arizona game 24-3 late in the second quarter. Billy Cundiff kicked the winning 25-yard field goal with three seconds remaining. Joe Flacco was 31-for-51 for 336 yards with a pick. Ray Rice had three rushing touchdowns. Arizona's QB that game was the forgettable Kevin Kolb and its leading rusher the equally forgettable Beanie Wells.
Ravens at Cardinals Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Arizona is a 9-point favorite (+105) with a total of 48. The Cards are -350 on the moneyline and Ravens +290. On the alternate lines, Arizona is -8 (-105), -7.5 (-110) and -7 (-130). No -8.5 offered as of this writing. Baltimore is 0-5-1 against the spread this season (0-3-1 on road) and 4-2 "over/under" (2-2 on road). Arizona is 4-2 ATS (2-1 at home) and 5-1 O/U (3-0 at home).
The Ravens are 5-1 ATS in their past six on Monday. They are 4-0-1 ATS in their past five on the road vs. teams with a winning home record. The Cards are 12-3-1 ATS in their past 16 following an ATS loss. They are 8-2 ATS in their past 10 at home. Arizona is 0-5 ATS in its past five on Monday. The over is 5-2-1 in Baltimore's past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-0 in the Cardinals' past four on Monday.
Monday Night Football Picks: Ravens at Cardinals Betting Predictions
ESPN's Football Power Index gives the Ravens a better chance of finishing with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft (3.6 percent) than making the playoffs (2.2 percent). Meanwhile, I'm still not sold on Arizona as its four wins are all over teams with losing records. It shouldn't have lost at home to St. Louis and definitely shouldn't have lost last week in Pittsburgh against Steelers third-string QB Landry Jones (in the second half).
Cards probably win a close one here. I'm taking the 9 points. Go over the total.
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